World's Greatest Dad [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Magnolia Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Ethan C. Stevenson (1st January 2010).
The Film

I didn’t expect much from “World’s Greatest Dad” going into it. The films star, Robin Williams, has done little to impress me in the last five years, perhaps longer, with the exception of a few less-than-terrible (but not exceptional) spots in small and forgettable pictures like “The Big White” (2005), and so his presence in the picture wasn’t exactly inspiring. The films director and writer, a Mr. Robert ‘Bobcat’ Goldthwait, has turned in only two previous motion pictures; both of which – the first, a tale of a pathetic, drunken clown (“Shakes the Clown” (1991)), and the second, a romantic-comedy infused with a bestial twist (“Where Sleeping Dogs Lie” (2005)) – are darkly weird and, personally, not something I find all that funny. With the above, and the rest of his new film’s cast made up of no-names and a few faces you can recognize, but not place, I honestly didn’t know what to think, and thus expected the worst.

Luckily, in actuality “World’s Greatest Dad” is about as far removed from my expectations of terribleness as one could possibly imagine. It’s also something much more mature than the director’s previous efforts, and it showcases a unique vision that I hope we see more of. Goldthwait’s picture is actually quite entertaining, although, I admit, it certainly is not something that will be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s the poster child for black comedy, so wickedly disturbing, but also incredibly hilarious, that it will definitely divide audiences.

The story is not overly complex. Lance Clayton (Robin Williams), a high school poetry teacher and failed author, is suffering from a lifetime of rotten luck. Not only is his career in the dumps, but his personal life is frankly shit too. His girlfriend, Claire (a wonderful Alexie Gilmore), wants to keep their relationship a secret, but has no problem openly flirting with a fellow coworker, Lance’s nemesis, Mike Lane (Henry Simmons), even when Lance is sitting at the same table with them. Worse yet, Clayton’s son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara), is quite possibly the worst teenager ever in the existence of man. Rude, foul mouthed and perverted beyond his years, Lance’s offspring brings him nothing but grief and anguish. That is, until a freak accident, which is too darkly twisted but oh-so-funny to spoil here, changes Lance’s life forever.

Where “World’s Greatest Dad” is smart, placing itself far above the average dark comedy, is that it plays out, from the moment of the above-mentioned life-changing event, as a critique on posthumous celebrity, on the sensationalism that surrounds death, and the often ridiculous nature of fads, particularly in how they affect the young and spread around a school. Channeling a little bit of “Heathers” (1988), the film is as much a commentary on teen suicide and high school, with a heavy touch of drama, as it is about Lance Clayton and his unfortunate life. The film is downright disturbing at times, but also uniquely, and strangely, appealing.

As clever and quick as the script is, what makes “World’s Greatest Dad” even better are the actors (a few of them anyway.) A few years ago Daryl Sabara played a positively terrible child on Showtime’s “Weeds” (2005-Present), as the son of DEA agent Peter Scottson. For fans of that series, picture his character, multiply his unpleasantness by about a million, and then you get some idea of how completely offensive, unlikable and what bastard Kyle really is; Sabara is superb though, he remains so completely evil throughout the whole show. Perfect really.

But, this is Williams’ picture and he shines here. This is easily his best performance in a decade. He’s not outrageous, over the top and generic like he’s been in so many films in recent years; instead he’s a real actor here. He’s funny, in a subtle, uncomfortable and pathetic way, but he’s so much better as a dramatic actor in the film; His constant internal struggle between telling the truth of what really happened to his son, and remaining silent, and simultaneously reaping the benefits of doing so (read fame and success) is played perfectly. Likewise, he has a few moments of pure emotionality; these select scenes where Williams is able to showcase that he can be more, much more, than just an ape that talks a mile-a-minute, firing off more impersonations than seems humanly possible; the caricature that he has become. Here, he’s raw: a real actor, giving a believable, earnest take on the character.

The fact that Robin Williams give an excellent performance (one of my favorites of the year) is just one of many reasons that I liked “World’s Greatest Dad.” I know that it won’t be universally loved, but Bobcat Goldthwait’s third outing as a feature film director is a solid movie that surprised the hell out of me. Well worth a recommendation.

Video

“World’s Greatest Dad” arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer in the films original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1. Bright, lively and richly saturated, the high-definition transfer consistently draws your eyes towards it, even if you don’t always want to be looking at for fear that some extremely uncomfortable images will suddenly appear. A light, natural grain structure adds a filmic quality to the disc, and contrast is solid, even if whites are a little hot. Colors, particularly reds, which are predominant in the school scenes with the students’ uniforms, lockers and various banners in all crimson and scarlet hues, are striking. Detail is decent to excellent for the entire runtime. Close ups are particularly sharp. A few darker scenes are a little soft, but overall the film looks great. The print is in fine shape with not a single blemish to be found, and I see no signs of digital tinkering or processing in the image. Surprisingly, even though the hour and forty minute long film shares it’s single layer confines with an audio commentary and about an hours worth of video based features, a third of which are encoded in HD, the transfer features no signs of poor compression; with an average bitrate of about 23 Mbps (and peaks in the high 30's) the disc is well digitized. As usual, Magnolia Home Entertainment offers up a faithful presentation free of digital noise reduction and edge enhancement.

Audio

The films primary and sole audio mix is a respectable, if understated and subdued English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (48kHz/24-bit/3.2 Mbps AVBR). Dialogue heavy and understandably thin, a majority of the film is, as you would expect; front focused and light on the bass. But, the mix is far from terrible with classroom and school hallway chatter funneled to the rear surrounds and an appreciable crispness to speech. Goldthwait’s soundtrack choices are also nicely produced, with one of the films final sequences, a slow-mo with Robin Williams, set to Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” filling the soundscape attractively.
Optional subtitles are included in English and Spanish.

Extras

The supplemental package is of decent stock and covers all the usual bases. This Blu-ray edition of “World’s Greatest Dad” includes an audio commentary, a collection of mostly skippable deleted scenes, an outtakes reel, a behind-the-scenes featurette, a fluffy HDNET promo featurette, a music video, BD-Live connectivity, bookmarks and bonus trailers. Standard stuff really, but a few of the extras are quite good. Bonus material is presented in a mixture of high-definition and standard definition. A closer look at the extras below:

The highlight of the set is an audio commentary with writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait. In a stream of consciousness fashion the man behind the film talks about writing the script, which he says he hammered out in five days (!), what it was like directing his good friend Robin Williams and even goes off on a few random as hell tangents. Not the most focused commentary ever, the track on “World’s Greatest Dad” is still, at very least, entertaining to listen to.

Also worth your time is “Behind the Scenes: WWBCD?” an above average featurette, directed by Goldthwait’s daughter. The mini-doc is full of interviews with the cast and crew, who share their thoughts on the film, what it’s like to work with ‘Bobcat’ and what they hope the movie accomplishes. The piece includes plenty of behind-the-scenes footage too, which is nice. The featurette is well crafted and goes beyond the typical EPK crap we usually see. Presented in standard definition. 18 minutes 35 seconds.

The deleted scenes play out like a montage here, with most of them seeming entirely inconsequential and definitely not worthy of being reinserted into the film proper. The only scene of interest is a strange dream sequence that involves Lance catching his porno-addicted son in a very personal moment. It’s odd, but not as irrelevant or useless as most of the other bits of deleted material. Presented in window-boxed standard definition. They include:

- “Gottta Get to School.” 48 seconds.
- “Only A Dream.” 48 seconds.
- “You’re Not Doing it Right.” 33 seconds.
- “An Empty House.” 1 minute 17 seconds.
- “Mike Has Something to Say.” 38 seconds.

An outtakes reel is totally skippable in my book. I’m normally not a fan of these things, as I find them to be painfully unfunny, and the one of “Worlds Greatest Dad” is more of the same. The only worthwhile piece here is a quick clip that shows director Bobcat Goldthwait screw up his first line in the film, as he bumbles over his dialogue in his cameo. This is another standard def extra. 1 minute 53 seconds.

“HDNET: A Look at ‘Worlds Greatest Dad’” is the typical promo featurette. Originally airing on HDNET as an extended commercial (I kid you not), this little fluff piece features comments from, mostly, writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait. Plenty of film clips are thrown in for good measure too. The only non-trailer oriented extra to be encoded in high-definition runs 4 minutes 42 seconds.

Finally, we get a halfway decent music video for “Hope I Become A Ghost” by The Deadly Syndrome. Standard definition. 4 minutes 12 seconds.

Like most of Magnolia’s recent Blu-ray releases “Worlds Greatest Dad” is BD-Live enabled, but contains no exclusive content. When I clicked the link it gave me a message to check back later for updates. As the disc has been on the street for a few weeks as of this writing, I doubt the distributor plans on offering any web-based extras for this title.

The disc also includes a standard bookmarking feature.

Finally, a few pre-menu bonus trailers, all encoded in high-definition, are included:

- “The Burning Plain.” 2 minutes 18 seconds.
- “Ong Bak II: The Beginning.” 1 minute 36 seconds.
- “Bronson.” 2 minutes 25 seconds.
- “Red Cliff.” 2 minutes 29 seconds.
- "HDNET" promo. 1 minute 2 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B Video: B+ Audio: B- Extras: C Overall: B

 


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